February 25, 2011

Good News: DOMA Almost Dead, Bad News: GOP Rep Still In Closet

This week President Obama finally came to his constitutional senses and directed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which was increasingly being challenged in courts across the country because, well, it's unconstitutional.  It was great news and a sign that the President is coming to understand that marriage equality is a civil rights issue and not a moral question.  According to his spokesman, even his position on gay marriage may be evolving.

Anyway, in other news, Rep. Aaron Schock came out with a statement saying he was "disappointed" by the President's call.  This would not be news from an average Republican in the House of Representatives.  However, most Republicans do not share his sense of fashion or his remarkable six-pack abs.  Looking at the picture here on the left (nicely posted by Andy Towle on Towleroad yesterday),  Rep. Schock is the fellow on the right, in the tourquoise belt, tight white jeans and lavender gingham print.  Seriously.  Like, whatever Mary!

Rep. Schock has repeatedly denied he is gay but, coming from a large family in which he is the only remaining single sibling, the writing is on the bathroom stall wall as a certain former Senator might say.  It's funny but also a bit sad really.  Which basically describes my feelings about closeted gay Republicans in general.

February 24, 2011

Donuts Of The Week

Well, after many posts about my interest in donuts, it appears the NY TIMES is jumping on the bandwagon.  Just another example of Hi-Fi Bri being a bellweather of cultural taste...or donut trends. :)

The main focus of the TIMES piece is a new joint in Bed-Stuy called "Dough".  It sounds slightly ridiculous in it's creation of somewhat artisanal donuts, with dulce de leche, cacoa bit toppings and "a vivd magenta hibiscus".  Seriously?!  The Nutella filled creme donut sounds a little more my speed though so I will have to make the trek and check it out.

They also give mention to a place that sounds more to my liking in The Point called the Peter Pan Donut Shop.  It's offerings look closer to my favorite joint, the Donut Pub on 14th Street (which was ignored).  It's got the traditional cruellers and chocolate topped creations, as well as jam filled treats that sound delicious. And there were also a few paragraphs on the new Doughnut Plant on 23rd Street that recently opened.  Their Chocolate Blackout is a personal fave and the PBJ concoction an NYC classic.

February 23, 2011

An Amazing New Production Of A Tennessee Williams Flop

When it opened on Broadway in 1977, Tennessee Williams memory play VIEUX CARRE lasted only 5 performances.  But now, nearly 35 years later, the play has returned triumphantly to a New York stage.  It's not exactly Broadway and it's not exactly the play TW wrote.  But it is an incredible production that I believe he would've thoroughly enjoyed.

Last Friday, I went to see this revelatory new version at the Baryschnikov Arts Center on 37th Street, only a few blocks physically from the Great White Way but much further artistically.  The experimental Wooster Group is responsible for this incredibly frank and racy production, which incorporates some haunting visuals, live video, internet porn and projections of the plays text, as well as an extraordinary sound/light design as well.  It was 2 hours without an intermission but it was absolutely riveting; a total reimagining of this early Williams play about a seedy New Orleans boardinghouse where a young writer gets mixed up with some questionable characters.

Today's TIMES gives the show a rave review, which is well deserves.  It has already been extended to mid-March and hopefully will get extended further.  Who knows?  Maybe it will end up on Broadway afterall...and wouldn't that be a kick for old TW.

February 22, 2011

The Old Atlantic Avenue Tunnel Closed By City

A few years ago, I took a tour of the old Atlantic Avenue tunnel.  The tunnel, dating from the mid-1800s, was discovered in the 1970s by a young Brooklyn train enthusiast named Bob Diamond. Since then, he has been running semi-regular tours of the tunnel and had plans to turn it into an active tourist attraction in downtown Brooklyn or perhaps an actual tunnel again, providing connecting service for a long-planned Brooklyn waterfront light rail network.

Recently, though, the city has shut him out of the tunnel.  Even though he'd been guiding tours in it for years, the fire department banned entry citing it was "unsafe". There was an article about all this in the TIMES yesterday, explaining the unfortunate situation.  Granted, Diamond has never had the best relationship with the city since he discovered the tunnel after being told by the city many times it didn't exist.  But it does seem like there is more going on here than simply fire code regulations.

Anyway, it's sad to see access to the tunnel has been closed. It was one of my favorite urban adventures in recent years, as you enter through a manhole in the middle of Atlantic and come upon this large, old musty tunnel that runs nearly 300 feet underground. It's truly a lost treasure of the city and one that should be open to the public.

February 18, 2011

"Born This Way" Gets Broken Down By A 12 Year Old

In lieu of an actual music video, Lady Gaga's little monsters have been busy this week making their own videos of her instant pop supersmash.  On Monday, I posted a Gaga/Madonna mash-up by an incredibly talented singer/musician named Omar Afuni.  Today, I have a 12 year old girl named Maria who breaks the song down, singing it while doing her own piano accompaniment.  Simply amazing.  To those who initially doubted the cred of this song, it seems that once you take out all the electronica, the song is a beautiful piece of music after all. 

I have to wonder if Maria was somewhat inspired by the amazing version of "Poker Face" done piano-side by Idina Menzel and Lea Michele last fall. Regardless, Maria has created a gem of her own....and even did a little rewrite of the lyrics at the end. This could be her audition video for the new American version of X-Factor, which is now soliciting for contestants.  All these talent/variety shows lately seem to love little girls with big voices. This Maria could clean up!

February 17, 2011

Randy And Mel Had A Rough Valentine's Day

This post is a little late I know but it's been a busy week with Jeopardy and my big news about my show.  Anyway, Randy Rainbow, my favorite YouTube comedian, posted another of his hilarious videos.  Randy and Mel are celebrating Valentines but their relationship has "hit a plateau".  Could be because Randy is cheating on  Mel with another well-known, semi-out of control celebrity.  You'll have to watch to find out....

February 16, 2011

"WTC View" Gets Its Off-Broadway Premiere This Spring

I have some exciting news to report today....my first full-length play, "WTC View" is getting it's off-Broadway premiere this coming May at the prestigious 59E59 Theaters.  The show will have a four week run as part of the theater's 5th Annual Americas Festival, a celebration of new work by American playwrights.  Yes...that would be me! :)  The show will be directed by my good friend and artistic collaborator on this project Andrew Volkoff, who directed the original production in 2003.

For those who don't know, "WTC View" was inspired by my true 9/11 story....which actually happened on 9/10.  The last thing I did before going to bed that night was place a roommate ad online for my apartment downtown.  Though I left for the safer confines of my boyfriend's place in Brooklyn the next day, strangely enough, people actually responded to the ad on September 12th! When I got back to the apartment a week later, there were multiple messages responding to my ad. Fortunately, I saved many of those messages and, in my journal, kept copious notes about what life was like living downtown in the weeks and months following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. And then, in March of 2002, thought this might be an interesting way to dramatize what life was like in NYC during those strange days of September 2001.

The show was originally done in the NY Intl. Fringe Festival in 2003.  With only 6 performances, the show made its mark critically and with audiences as well, who responded strongly to the piece.  A few years later, a filmed adaptation came out starring our original cast (including Michael Urie, from UGLY BETTY).  And now, nearly 10 years after 9/11, the show will get its first full production here in New York.  I can't tell you how thrilled I am to have this opportunity to get the show onstage here.  Anyway, there will be more news about all this in the coming months.  For now, you can check out the show's Facebook page for more info, pictures and updates as they become available. And make sure to LIKE us and/or become a fan too. Thanks for your support!

February 15, 2011

IBM's Watson Computer Scores On JEOPARDY

Skynet...call your agent.  Last night, IBM's Watson supercomputer was a contestant on JEOPARDY and it kicked ass.  Competing against two of the show's major champions, Kenn Jennings and Brad Rutter, it did a pretty amazing job tying Brad with $5,000 at the end of the show. Armed with 15 terabytes of RAM and 2800 processor cores, the computer was too big to have on stage so it was represented by an "avatar" which was a computer screen and a voice that sounded suspiciously like HAL.

As fascinating as the show was, it was a bit of a massive, 30 minute advertisement for IBM, which repeated it's corporate initials countless times and had it's logo all over the place.  There was even a mini-doc about how IBM scientists trained Watson for the big game and how it's virtual brain (NOT connected to the Internet btw!) actually worked.  IBM clearly is aiming to beat Google in the "Star Trek" stakes of creating the computer you can ask questions to in standard English and get instantaneous answers.  And if Watson can actually win this megamatch, those will be some serious bragging rights.

Below is some footage from last night's show, reported by the AP.  The competition continues tonight and Wednesday.  So tune in to see if humanity gets it's ass whooped by bunch of circuits.

February 14, 2011

The Inevitable Gaga/Madonna Mashup

On Friday, the big news of Hosni Mubarak's stunning departure from Egypt was competing with another major worldwide event;  the debut of Lady Gaga's new single.  Seriously. Both were competing trending topics on Facebook.  Since Friday, there has been a lot of hullabaloo about Gaga's "Born This Way" being a rip-off of Madonna's "Express Yourself".  I'd say it was definitely inspired by true pop events from 20 plus years ago.  Anyway, a young singer was so inspired he decided to make a mashup of the two hits and, in just a couple days, has garnered over 100,000 hits.  He's adorable but also has got some serious pipes.  Check it out below...

February 11, 2011

FAMILY FEUD Answers Shock Host And Contestants

I saw this video posted by a friend on FB yesterday under the headline "a sign of progress".  That could be true given the shocking answer host Steve Harvey gets from the question "name something that gets passed around."  While Harvey is shocked by the first contestants answer, he is even more shocked by what happens when he reveals what the "survey says".

I've always had questions about these mysterious groups of 100 people surveyed.  I'd heard that the standard practice was they used to ask these questions of the studio audience before the show started, which would make sense.  But Harvey references going out to malls in middle America.  If that is true, then this is definitely a small sign of cultural progress away from organized religion and towards unorganized, uh....recreation.

February 10, 2011

WTC VIEW Is Back Onstage In Philadelphia

My first play, WTC VIEW, is getting its regional premiere next month down in Philadelphia!  After lots of inquiries from theaters around the country and even a few readings, this will be the show's first full production since we premiered it in the NYC Intl. Fringe Festival in 2003.

The show is being staged at the Allens Lane Playhouse, a theatre which has been putting on shows for local audiences down there since 1953.  The production is being directed by T. Patrick Ryan, who initially heard about the play through the filmed version of WTC VIEW which was released in 2006, starring Michael Urie from UGLY BETTY.  He he been a real advocate for the show, making his case there over the last few years.  It's so great that his dedication to this play finally coming to fruition.

The show opens a month from now, on March 11th and runs through the 26th.  I will be going to see this new production on the 19th and will be at the theater for a discussion of the play afterwards. I'm very excited to see the show is getting produced again and hope this is the first of many regional productions of the show.  So if you know any folks in the Philly area, spread the word.  And there may be some big news of a possible New York City production soon.....stay tuned!

February 9, 2011

The Face That Launched A Thousand Drag Queens

On Monday, actress Tura Satana, known for her legendary role in FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL! KILL!, died of heart failure.  I think an actor's career can often be measured by their influence on other performers and Ms. Satana, with her fierce attitude and sassy style, clearly inspired not only a generation of ass-kicking female stars but also more than a few drag queens as well.  I've always felt her role was the inspiration behind the look and attitude of many of today's biggest drags.  And, like a true drag star, even her age was a mystery, officially listed as 72 but quite possibly 76 or older.

Tura had a tough upbrining as a Japanese-American, including time spent in an internment camp during WWII.  When she took on show business, it's no surprise to learn that she started out as a burlesque star before transitioning into the world of B-movies.  There she truly made her cultural mark with the role of Varla, the spitfire woman-warrior who has all the best lines, not to mention a few good left hooks.

Tura's big role had a massive impact pop culture, with her influence today seen in places like Quentin Tarantino movies and the TV show XENA. Tura's life has also inspired a documentary film, which I found a trailer for on YouTube.  It has some great clips from FASTER too.  As you'll see, not only was she a true cult star but also a true original.

February 8, 2011

A Video Trip Back to NYC In The 1980s

Nelson Sullivan was a videographer who immersed himself in the New York's downtown demimonde in the 1980s.  He filmed people like artist Haring, rocker Dean Johnson, VOICE gossip Michael Musto and a very young Ru Paul, just off the bus from Atlanta.

My friend Andrew recently showed me some of Nelson's videos which are now up on YouTube.  They provide a fascinating look at NYC in the 80s, not just for who is on camera but for what is in the background too.  A trip to Times Square with some drag queens (including Ru) is most interesting for how relatively empty the sidewalks are during a weekday.  And then, if you look closely, you can see vanished gems like the old Howard Johnson's on Broadway, which frequented back in the day for its Whiskey Sours and French Dips and rude waitresses.

Below is one of Nelson's video compilations but there are many more up on YouTube if you search his name.  He shot more than 1,900 hours of footage using one of the early 8mm video cameras before dying suddenly in 1989 of a heart attack at age 41.  There is also some more information about Nelson and his archive on his website as well.   His work is a great nostalgia trip to the rougher, crazier and dirtier city of the recent past....one that I sometimes miss like an old friend.

February 7, 2011

New TV Host Ignatiy Vishnevetsky Is Kinda Cute

You are probably wondering, OK....who the heck is Ignatiy Vishnevetsky?  You are probably not wondering why he is kinda cute, as that is pretty obvious.  :) As to who he is exactly, Ignatiy is a big film nerd from Chicago who got his start working at a video store there, founded a movie site called MUBI and now is the new co-host of "At The Movies" on PBS.

I caught the new iteration of the show that originally starred the inimitable Siskel and Ebert.  The show was languishing until last year when Ebert decided to take the show over as producer and hire new talent.  The new movie review duo was going to be Christy Lemire, from the AP, and Elvis Mitchell, from NPR.  Mitchell was dropped (or quit?) and critic Ignatiy got a film critics' role of a lifetime...all at the ripe age of 26.

The show started airing on PBS a couple weeks ago and, having seen the 3 episode on Friday, it's not too bad.  They had a nice choice of indie films and the rapport was intelligent and sharp, with some disagreements but nothing stagey.  Ignatiy has grown a half-beard to try and age-up a bit.  He doesn't need it though. He speaks commandingly of his love for cinema and has the breadth of knowledge for this sort of gig.  So the fact that he is also kinda cute too boot is merely a bonus.

February 4, 2011

Pencil vs. Camera

Another photo post today. These look-twice pics really caught my eye when they were featured in yesterday's Telegraph, a UK paper/website which is surpringly artsy for a major daily. The man behind these unique mash-ups of drawing and photography is a Belgian artist named Ben Heine.  You can even purchase these works too via his website, linked to his name.  And the full slide show is viewable at this link to the Telegraph's Arts section.

February 3, 2011

The Ruins Of Coney Island

Coney Island is one of my favorite places in NYC, as many of you know. I've blogged about trips to the Freak Show for Burlesque and Boylesque and my annual ride of the Cyclone, the best coaster in the world.  But, these days, Coney is in the midst of a massive transformation and pieces of it's storied past are fast disappearing.

This week, the TIMES City Room blog featured some gorgeous photos of the ruins of Coney Island by a local photographer, Nathan Kensinger.  He took shots of the Playland arcade which dates from the 1930's and is falling down.  His website has more of these pictures which capture a ghostly place, lost in time.  The new Coney may be nicer than it was, but hopefully the old Coney in these photos will never be forgotten.

February 2, 2011

"The Empire Strikes Back" circa 1955....in 3D!

I posted before about this guy who puts together "premake" trailers of recent blockbusters made out of the footage of old B-movies.  One of his best was "Raiders Of The Lost Ark".  But this one is pretty good too. I especially like the recreation of the Hoth ice planet and the charming Captain Solo.  Darth Vader might look familiar....it's actually Iron Man, from a Marvel serial of the same name in the 50's.

February 1, 2011

Battle of The True Stories For This Year's Oscar

Four films this year are battling for the top prizes at the Oscars this year; David O. Russell's THE FIGHTER, David Fincher's THE SOCIAL NETWORK, Danny Boyle's 127 HOURS Tom Hooper's THE KING'S SPEECH.  Though all these films couldn't be more different than each other they all do have one thing in common which is that they are all "based on a true story".  It's as if the reality TV virus has started to infect the Academy Awards. The questions everyone is asking now is how true are these stories, and, the even bigger question, will that matter when it comes time for Oscar voters to make their picks?

Both SOCIAL and HOURS seem to take the loosest and most fictional approach to their true life inspirations.  And they are struggling for awards momentum lately.  In David Finchers' retelling of the rise of Mark Zuckenberg, he creates a wholly fictional framing device for the young Harvard nerd's quest to create Facebook--he wants to meet girls.  However, the real life Zuckenberg already had a girlfriend when he was in college.  In fact, he still has the girlfriend today.

Bigger queries are being raised over the Oscar-favorite THE KING'S SPEECH.  There seems to be a whisper campaign starting up that King George was more an appeaser than he is painted in the movie.  Will this embellishment of history dash the film's chances for the big prize?  Probably not.  The film is still brilliant and, even though THE SOCIAL NETWORK was highly entertaining, the story of King George has the emotional story going for it, one that audiences have responded to.  Not unlike a movie a few years back which humanized King George's daughter...THE QUEEN.

I think that the reality theme of the 2010 race is more likely a fluke.  What Oscar really loves is royalty! And no amount of whispering will sway voters otherwise.  My bet is THE KING'S SPEECH will take home 5-6 statues at least, maybe more, including Best Picture.